Alberta Politics
Crews supposedly at work on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project (Photo: Trans Mountain Corp. handout).

Trans Mountain Pipeline court ruling looks like a win for Alberta — as the world drives away in an electric car

Posted on February 05, 2020, 1:58 am
7 mins

You win some, you lose some.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney won one yesterday with the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal to strike down a challenge by a group of four British Columbia First Nations and allow the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project to take another lurching step toward completion.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The 3-0 ruling was widely expected by legal authorities, thanks to the efforts of the Trudeau Cabinet to follow the consultation blueprint set out in an earlier court decision for completing major projects with significant First Nations opposition.

And as federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan told reporters outside the House of Commons in Ottawa, the decision shows that “if consultations are meaningful and in good faith, and you roll up your sleeves and you do the work, and listen and allow those conversations to affect what you do, and to make sure that you do it the right way, you can get stuff done.”

That’s because, the court in effect ruled, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Squamish Nation, Coldwater Indian Band and Sto:lo First Nations of the Fraser Valley had a right to fulsome consultation, but didn’t have a veto over projects deemed to be in the national interest by the federal cabinet.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Kenney will naturally try to take credit for the ruling of the court, although he and his United Conservative Party Government had precious little to do with it, and consistently advocated an arbitrary approach the court would have rejected.

Whether the Alberta premier continues to try to pretend Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is just trying to throw roadblocks in the way of Alberta’s ambitions remains to be seen. Yesterday in Montreal, where he must have known it had the potential to stir up trouble for the PM, he slyly praised Mr. Trudeau. “I think this government understands there has to be … a balance between economic growth and environmental responsibility,” he said.

Former Alberta premier Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Albertans who accept the contentious notion access to seawater will help the province get a higher price for its bitumen will be cheered by a decision bringing the day closer when the amount of the stuff shipped from the Athabasca oilsands to the West Coast can triple.

This group includes former NDP Premier Rachel Notley, who argued the Trans Mountain Expansion owes its success to the exertions of her government and its co-operation with Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals — which is certainly true, although unlikely to win her many friends here in Wild Rose Country.

The First Nations leaders who brought the legal action vowed to press on to the Supreme Court of Canada, although it is far from clear they will be able to do so, and unlikely if they do get leave to appeal they will be able to prevail.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan (Photo: Seamus O’Regan).

Meanwhile, however, across the pond in Blighty, Mr. Kenney and his supporters lost one — although the impact of Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to only wait 15 more years before imposing a ban on the sale of new fossil-fuel-powered automobiles, including hybrids, may have been missed amid the celebrations in Alberta Conservative circles.

No one here should imagine Brexit is going to change this, since Mr. Johnson made his announcement three days after Mr. Kenney tweeted his congratulations to the people of the (dis)United Kingdom for “officially regaining their independence” from the European Union.

It would seem, to borrow the words of Mr. Kenney’s Brexit-vote-night tweet back in 2016, that the U.K.’s decision to choose “hope over fear by embracing a confident, sovereign future, open to the world,” didn’t necessarily mean the world in question included Alberta and its oilsands.

Yesterday’s BoJovian announcement, which shortened the time till the ban takes effect by five years, was timed to coincide with the launch of the United Nations’ COP26 this fall in Glasgow, the Associated Press said. Scotland will presumably still be part of the U.K. then.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Photo: British Cabinet Office).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were no stories today attacking Prime Minister Johnson on the Alberta War Room website, which featured instead a defence of the Teck Frontier oilsands mine proposal, a cheerful yarn about wood bison happily grazing atop a former oilsands mine site, and lots of stale copy.

Alas for Alberta, as NBC News pointed out in its coverage of Mr. Johnson’s post-Brexit petrol ban, “the U.K. isn’t alone in its efforts.”

“More than a dozen countries around the world have announced plans to crack down on new sales of gas and diesel vehicles in the next decade or two. France plans to ban the sale of fossil-fuel powered cars by 2040 and Norway’s Parliament has set a non-binding goal that by 2025 all cars should be zero emissions.”

Which is part of the reason why, given the iron law of supply and demand, that building new pipelines from Alberta to the sea is no guarantee that theoretical access to global markets will increase the price fetched by Alberta bitumen.

Mr. Kenney and his supporters can take comfort, though, that the world will likely still need some Alberta bitumen — to repair the roads on which all those electric vehicles will go whizzing around.

Here endeth the lesson.

19 Comments to: Trans Mountain Pipeline court ruling looks like a win for Alberta — as the world drives away in an electric car

  1. Dave

    February 5th, 2020

    The saying about winning the battle, but losing the war comes to mind here. I figured eventually Trans Mountain would proceed and that will provide some immediate economic and political relief to Alberta’s besieged energy sector. However, climate change is also still real and is not going away.

    Of course, the transition away from fossil fuels will not happen right away. It will take a while for technology to fully develop (although we are close on that now), infrastucture to develop and governments like in the UK to set their own timelines for this transition. However, make no mistake, the question now is not if, but when and when may come sooner than we expect.

    I think the hope of Notley was that Trans Mountain would give some time for Alberta to plan and fund our own transition to an economy of the future. My fear is with the UCP, much of that time will be frittered away and wasted as they seem oblivious to where the rest of the world outside Alberta is headed.

    Mr. Kenney might be engaging in a bit of mischief in his comments in Montreal, perhaps more to try to also appear as a tactical victor here, but the long term does not favour his approach.

  2. Just Me

    February 5th, 2020

    Another white elephant to stroke Kenney’s ego. Wait until all that bitumen has no place to go. Of course, PMJT and the Liberals will be blamed. Or Greenpeace. Or the Rockefellers. Or OPEC. Or Islam. Or ANTIFA. Or sunspot activity.

  3. Farmer Brian

    February 5th, 2020

    “Here Endeth the lesson.” I did a little quick research. According to the Energy Information Administration, most recent information is from 2012 unfortunately. 25% of world oil is consumed in transportation. Light duty vehicles and buses account for half of this consumption, so therefore passenger vehicles consume roughly 12.5% of the oil consumed. So will electric vehicles be the end of oil? Apparently not.

    When Rachel Notley was Premier their balanced budget projections depended on the completion of Trans Mountain as well. Rachel Notley was simply better at virtue signalling.

    • Death and Gravity

      February 6th, 2020

      You wrote:

      “25% of world oil is consumed in transportation. Light duty vehicles and buses account for half of this consumption, so therefore passenger vehicles consume roughly 12.5% of the oil consumed”

      Even if the first two propositions were true, the implication that only passenger vehicles are eligible for electrification and hence that electric vehicles could have no impact on global markets is laughably false.

      As for the sneer about “virtue signalling”, that is 100% sure sign of a noxious right wing attitude.

      Try to do better. Or better, go away.

    • Kang

      February 6th, 2020

      Dear Farmer Brian:
      The issue is not really oil consumption; it is green house gas emissions. According to Environment Canada, transportation accounts for 24% of GHG emissions (30% in the US). More than half of that is city people using cars. The next biggest amount is city people using airlines. Another 30% of Canada’s GHG emissions comes from oil and gas extraction which has more than doubled from 1990 to 2017.

      However, instead of defending a dubious pipeline which depends on taking private land, as a farmer you should be pointing out that agriculture accounts for only 10% of Canada’s GHG emissions and those could be substantially lowered with more rail lines to haul farm produce. The low hanging fruit for reducing GHG emissions is oil and gas production to provide transportation for city people.

      If you want a universal lesson, take this from Peter Terzakain, a Calgary Energy analyst:

      “Old technology, coupled with poor-quality resources and overzealous management, is always a bad bet – one investors should steer clear of.”

      He was talking about cable tool drilling for oil but in my opinion, he could just as well be talking about TMX.

  4. alan

    February 5th, 2020

    After all of the limited liability giant oil producers have made all of their shareholders fabulously wealthy and it comes time to walk away from the final clean up bill in the northern frontier, who is going to be left holding the bag containing the bill for the final clean up costs and environmental remediation? The current scenario suggests it definitely will not be those individuals that have privately profited, as costs must always be socialized, if the current economic game is to continue on as it has in the past. That is the number one commandment in the current quasi free market shell game ;whereas, “Profit is private and individual. Loss is public and social.”

    Further, the climate change cat was out of the proverbial bag decades ago

    Yet the Kenney cabal keeps harkening back to the halcyon days of yonder easy money oil sands yore and lore. The future is coming and nothing that a fractious kicking and screaming Mr. Kenney does in the present day is going to change that future.

  5. Abs

    February 5th, 2020

    Can we assume this cushy little “Ambassador to Montreal” gig will get Claudia Cattaneo back home with family and friends? If so, we can predict where the other War Room staffers want their satellite offices. Anyone care to place bets? As I said, this $30M a year War Room budget is just a jumping-off point. Soon, Pinky and his Brains will take over the world! Forget the Candian Energy Centre. Call it the World Trade Center. Delusions of grandeur need grander grandeur.

  6. Political Ranger

    February 5th, 2020

    There is no evidence anywhere that the TMX pipe will increase prices paid for Albaturda bitumen.

    It is a complete fantasy, made up from some fevered imaginings, that attaches any correlation between the two.

    • Bob Raynard

      February 6th, 2020

      What no one ever seems to mention is that some bitumen is already getting to tidewater, either through existing pipelines or all those black tanker cars we see as we wait for a train. The case for higher prices would be a lot more credible if it could be shown that the bitumen that does go to tidewater does indeed fetch a higher price. My understanding is that once there is a pipeline, we then have to hope that someone in Asia will decide to build a bitumen refinery, at which point there will be a higher price. Seems like a lot of hoping to me. I guess Jason could use my pension to build a refinery in Asia.

      • Death and Gravity

        February 7th, 2020

        It would at least make some kind of sense to use local funds to build processing facilities in Alberta. But that would be socialism or something. Picking winners, and all that, which a UCP government would certainly never do.

    • m nokleby

      February 13th, 2020

      Like the way you think. Albaturda indeed……our bitumen could still sink our Vancouver, given enough flow and nobody wanting the crud….might be why so many west coasters aren’t so impressed with Transmountain.

      I used to say if we can stop the Northern Gateway, Vancouver will defeat the Kinder Morgan. Recently, I’m less optimistic.

  7. Bill Malcolm

    February 5th, 2020

    Well, that’s a Catch 22 for First Nations. Their opposition views HAVE to be listened to in a meaningful way. But can be totally disregarded if federal cabinet decides to differ on a trans-provincial project. As ever. This is the kind of thing that leads to desperate action, because it’s so totally illogical. “Well, we were forced to listen to you by law. Now bugger off.”

    The Wetsuweten protest and camp is entirely within BC but on unceded territory. Can the feds stick their boot in there as well? They’ve sent in the stalwart Mr Plods of the Arseeempee clad in SWAT gear to curtail freedom of movement already, even for lawyers, so I guess the answer is yes. No helicopters allowed to bring supplies in either. And lookee here, freedom of movement is not actually in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms except as in freedom of mobility within the country for employment. Horgan must be so happy, while vacationers can tremble in their boots for having the audacity to roam free.

  8. Farmer Dave

    February 5th, 2020

    After Notley and Trudeau did all the heavy lifting for the Trans Mountain pipeline, Kenney comes riding in on his high horse trying to take credit for this project. Kenney is the worst Premier Alberta has ever had.

    • Death and Gravity

      February 6th, 2020

      I would agree he is the worst, from my perspective. Sadly, he is the premier an overwhelming majority of Albertans wanted. Unlike Trump, stuck at 44% of the electorate, or Ford with a bare 40%, Kenney effectively received the support of 65% of the electorate. And I see no reason whatsoever to think that number will change much next time.

      I really don’t know where to go with this.

      • Abs

        February 7th, 2020

        Kenney considers 55 per cent of the popular vote an “overwhelming” majority. It is a majority, but hardly overwhelming. Last April, 45 percent of the populace was against him. Today we learned that another 19,000 jobs were lost in January in Alberta, in addition to the previous 50,000 lost since the UCP took office. Meanwhile, the rest of Canada gained 35,000 full-time jobs.

        So 70,000 Albertans have lost their jobs since April 2019, when Kenney came to power. He might want to put that in his pipe and smoke it. More layoffs are likely on the way, with the March 31 expiration date for public service workers’ contracts. Post-secondary institutions will also learn the true scope of their fate on April 1.

        As my grandfather said, “Idle hands make work for the devil.” He was old enough to remember the Winnipeg General Strike and the On to Ottawa Trek of the Great Depression, among other worker events of the early 20th century.

        There can only be so much blaming, deflecting and projecting by Kenney & Co. before even the most gullible and passive unemployed Albertan wakes up and realizes Kenney & Co. are the problem. The jobs are gone, and Kenney is piling on, making things worse. It’s a classic tag team wrestling move.

  9. Anonymous

    February 6th, 2020

    Of course Jason Kenney and his crew will try to take credit for this pipeline. There still are other issues pertaining to it. Oil prices have sunk like a lead balloon. What good is a shiny new pipeline that will carry a product that the world market simply has no appetite for? Nobody really wants the oil from the oilsands anymore.

  10. the salamander

    February 6th, 2020

    .. Who here – has seen a quarterly report from Trans Mountain ? Profit and Loss – Any ‘Business Case’ ? The political theory that this expanded or twinned pipeline is going to rain money is fascinating, but seemingly its complete horseshit. Show Canadians THE MONEY !!

    Somehow twould seem this aged pipeline enterprise is going to ride to the rescue of all things, perhaps even easing ague, gout, sour liver, and ladies monthly discomforts. As well, the fortunes of grateful Asians will soar, Nation Building will be served for generations to come, Society and the BEST INTERESTS of all Canadians will make room for Alberta who seemingly have been forever propping up the doddering other regions and Provinces of the Country called Canada.. eh !!

    Somehow, the advent of daily empty Afromax supertankers arriving at Burnaby BC to take on a half load of Alberta ethical or blessed dilbit cargo and depart again via Second Narrows shallows and on into the Salish Sea.. then voyage to Washington State and/or California for refining is going to magically do all that !!! Yes folks, at approx 30$ a barrel bitumen (Western Canada Select – WCS) Canada will be able to afford to lower GHG emissions !! Whew !! Its like Spaceship Earth will thrive or The Alberta Advantage will return.. via Trans Mountain. ‘All That Wealth In The Ground’ – which is in reality, 96% of all of Canada’s ‘Oil Wealth’ is Alberta tar sands Bitumen.. and by mysteriously getting it to Asia, Canadian voters will ensure a shuck n jive soft shoe shuffle by Harper or Trudeau or Kenney or Butts or Morneau.. will uh.. lead to and be ‘sunny daze’ ..

    But hey !! Teck Resources to the rescue !! To ‘tidewater’ is the war cry of the Crusaders !!!


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